A colourful whimsical reinterpretation of Ghibli’s films.
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26 Jun 2017 - 3:09 PM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2017 - 3:09 PM

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an action role playing game that captures the colourful and whimsical charm of Studio Ghibli’s films. The game is a sequel to 2013’s turn-based Japanese role playing game Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, which combined the lovably wholesome visual and aural aesthetic of Studio Ghibli with development studio Level-5’s (Yokai Watch, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, Dark Cloud) familiar turn-based battle system.

Like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, Revenant Kingdom tells a coming of age story, with adventure and fantasy through the eyes of a young child. Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum is a young cat prince of the cat and mice kingdom of Ding Dong Dell. After his father dies and a vicious coup overthrows his seat of power, Evan is banished from the kingdom and sets out to unify the world of Ni no Kuni.

“Our protagonist starts as a young adult who has no leadership skills or experience in a position as a leader,” director Akihiro Hino told Polygon. “He must learn. There are a lot of trials, questioning, prodding and poking at his qualities of leadership.”

Evan will meet all sorts of characters and locations inspired by the many eras of Studio Ghibli. Some of these include a mysterious well-dressed man from the real world, the daughter of a sky pirate, an eastern palace inspired by Hindu imagery and the owner of the Goldpaw casino, Pugnacious. Yoshiyuki Momose, who has worked as a key animator and storyboard writer for Studio Ghibli, designed the characters and world, accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, The Wind Rises, Princess Mononoke).

As a response to fans’ criticism towards the original’s frustrating and overwhelming combat, Level 5 has replaced the turn-based familiar mechanic with a simpler action role playing system. In battle, you control one of three party members and play in real time. Moving around and managing your party’s health is less stressful and easier to manage here because you aren’t micromanaging your playable character, their summoned creature, your other party members and their own familiars.

“The biggest change in the fighting system is the transition from inputting a command and watching it play out to a system in which all the commands are executed in real time,” Hino told Polygon. “Supporting characters and spirits called Higgledies [that can buff your party or protect you from incoming elemental attacks] add strategic elements that play out in parallel. This opens up possibilities [and] is something much closer to real time action.”

The world of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is grounded in the Ghibli mythos and is fun to discover. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles earlier this month, we had the chance to play a section of the game set in the first ten hours, tasked with saving a kingdom from a Chinese inspired dragon that had gone berserk, destroying the city it was designed to protect.

“Somewhere in the back of everyone’s mind, they can project a fantasy which they can compare and contrast to their own reality,” Hino told Polygon. “People like to think about these worlds where there are a whole different set of rules. The fact that the world of Ni No Kuni is connected to a real world really differentiates it from a lot of other fantasy games, I feel.”

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom releases on November 10, on the PlayStation 4 and PC. We’ll have more E3 coverage over the coming week.

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